'A newspaper can reach everybody' - Congolese asylum seeker

Cape Town - They received tertiary education in medicine, philosophy and electrical engineering, but their degrees were not enough to keep them in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Gilungu-Malenda Maurice, Ngoy Muselwa Etienne, Eric Notyo Iyolo and Oliver Tshinkyoka Mulombo left their homes in the DRC under duress and eventually landed up in South Africa. 

"We were looking for a piece of peace," said Muselwa. 

Fed up with the attacks on their neighbours, the disappearances of their colleagues, the declining service delivery and -- most of all -- the complete lack of media freedom, the four made the long journey down to Cape Town where they all settled. 

Muselwa and Iyolo have since received their asylum seeker status and are waiting to apply for their refugee papers. 

They are not alone. Last year 5,100 Congolese citizens applied for asylum in South Africa. 

"There are many (foreign) communities here in South Africa," said Mulombo.

"They live in a network -- in unity. In a supportive, solidarity unit."

"While in the Congolese community, that is not the reality," he said. 

What&39;s more, they found South Africans to be unwelcoming and intolerant of them too.

"At some point I noticed that people really don&39;t like foreigners," said Malenda. 

Alone in an unfamiliar country, searching for a community to become a part of, the four men eventually met -- and came up with the idea to start a newspaper. 

"It&39;s only your friends and that&39;s it. Or your family, and that&39;s it," said Mulombo.

"The Congolese here... they are living lonely. So that came up as a need for an entity whereby all the Congolese can try to find themselves, together." 

With no formal journalism or publishing training and zero budget, the four of them devised and launched Congo Square News in August 2011. 

The news and community paper&39;s readership is small, and the lack of budget is still a major factor hampering distribution, but the team hopes to eventually gain readers all over South Africa and in the DRC. 

"When we&39;re together, we&39;re talking about things that we need to see as a change," said Iyolo.

"People are talking about (foreigners&39; issues) in South Africa, but they are not taking the initiative to address those (issues)."

Congo Square News has gone out to about 16,000 people so far, according to the team. It focuses mainly on the local community&39;s issues and the stories of individual Congolese migrants who either need assistance or who are doing something noteworthy. 

The paper&39;s fourth edition will be released in Cape Town on June 5. 

Watch the video in the gallery above

 

- Additional reporting by Roderick Macleod